GREEK SANCTUARIES AND TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE: An Introduction

Mary Emerson

Bloomsbury (2nd edn., 2018) p/b 270pp £18.99 (ISBN 9781472575289)

The first edition (Greek Sanctuaries: An Introduction) confined the discussion of sanctuaries mainly to Olympia, Delphi and the Athenian Acropolis with occasional reference to others. There was no treatment in any detail of Epidaurus, Nemea, Isthmia, Brauron or many more sites that would reward investigation. The addition of ‘temple architecture’ to the title gives a better impression of the contents, though the big three are still the sanctuaries that feature most prominently. There are a number of minor additions to the text to reflect recent scholarship or change of opinion, such as the doubt cast upon the association of the Delphi charioteer with Polyzelos, tyrant of Gela, but the major advances on the first edition are the two additional chapters on Paestum and the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Akragas. The book is now printed on glossy paper and therefore has clearer images, as well as some new illustrations.

The new preface sets out very clearly the scope and nature of the book.  E emphatically states that it is an introduction to the subject and she has provided a much-expanded bibliography to encourage and facilitate further reading. To this end too she includes technical architectural terminology (and a glossary) as an important grounding for more advanced study.

Her opening statement (‘This book is primarily about buildings’) introduces her aims: detailed description of the buildings, setting them in their landscape, noting their social, historical and political context, discussing their religious uses and their meaning to the original viewers, speculative though that may be.  Chapter 2, for example, has been extended to cover sacred events at sanctuaries, an addition that gives E. the opportunity to convey the atmosphere graphically with song, dance, costume, sacrifice, competition, feasting, spectacle, choreography, colour, music. Her concluding chapter uses the chorus in Euripides Ion to exemplify the response of the visitor to the sanctuary.

Sculpture and its function in context also play a considerable part in her discussion—of course, when the Parthenon is the subject, there is a lengthy analysis. There are one or two minor slips with architectural terminology: the ‘decorative band’ beneath the cushion on an Ionic capital (p.21) is usually identified as the echinus, while on p. 105 she has mutules instead of regulae, perhaps because she mistakenly states in the glossary that regulae are the same as mutules. But these are rare and minor slips in a generally sound and helpful guide to the basics of Greek architecture in the major sanctuaries. The additional two chapters on the western Greeks also have a quite narrow focus, although this allows a more detailed exploration of the selected sites and their buildings. Poseidonia (Paestum) may seem an obvious choice because of the remarkable state of preservation of its famous three temples, but she also gives due attention to the Heraion on Paestum’s northern border which is notable for its architectural sculpture rather than the state of preservation of its buildings.

Discussion of the better preserved buildings in Akragas such as the so-called Temple of Concord is sacrificed for a detailed look at perhaps the most unusual Greek temple, that of Olympian Zeus with its huge telamones and wall with engaged columns instead of a peristyle. The apparent conformity of Greek temple design is shown by E. to be a limited view, and this final example is the most unusual and surprising of all Greek temples.

Photographs are all b/w, but supplementary resources are available at www.bloomsbury.com/Emerson-Greek-Sanctuaries-2E ; then go to ‘Galleries’.

Alan Beale

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